Award-winning horror writer David Nickle has been repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to have a frank and serious discussion of HP Lovecraft’s undeniable racism; people want to hand-wave it as being a product of Lovecraft’s times, but it is inseparable from Lovecraft’s fiction.
Nickle’s novel Eutopia is a chilling horror story about the American eugenics movement, which Lovecraft embraced. As he persuasively argues, Lovecraft’s belief in eugenics was not mainstream by any means, even in his day, and it is infused through Lovecraft’s work — what would “Call of Cthulhu” be without the “eugenically unfit denizens of the bayou or ‘primitive’ island cultures whose religious practises amount to a kind of proactive nihilism”?
Nickle’s essay on the subject is occasioned by a movement to replace HP Lovecraft’s likeness on the World Fantasy Award with a likeness of Octavia Butler — not to erase Lovecraft from the genre’s history, but to acknowledge the long-neglected contributions of diverse writers to the field. As Nickle writes, Lovecraft’s texts are foundational to horror and fantasy, but unless we confront and acknowledge the problematic aspects of them, we can’t unpick them and understand them for what makes them tick.